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In a culture and world where we hardly “stop to smell the roses,” slowing down may be in order.
By slowing down, learning to relax the body so it can work more effectively, while at the same time trying to keep the mind quiet and be less reactive, one can access his/her essential nature. Our essence is that which is pure positive energy, and a set of qualities that are the expression of love. I teach Wellness Education and Yoga as a way to guide students back to their essence.
By slowing down, we learn to live harmoniously with ourselves and others. This feels good because the capacity to care for ourselves and others is innate in our essence. What has eclipsed our ability to live harmoniously and as an expression of our essence? One possible answer may be the speed of modern life. Another possibility may be that the result of living in such fast pace may cause significant dissonance. To me, pausing to develop awareness, understanding, empowering ourselves to take responsibility for our well-being and that of those around us; and taking healthy actions may be the antidote.
By slowing down and stabilizing our attention on the breath (this takes daily practice), it is possible to tap into a state of inner peace and learn to relax into what is. Breath by breath, we can cultivate a slower and more conscious approach. In Yoga, when we choose to slow down, the practice may be transformed from a physical one, which at times can be competitive and aggressive, to a more internal path of self-study; a contemplative experience. By bridging the gap of what we perceive as a separation of mind, body, emotions and spirit, and through the integration of all, the practice can become an exploration of one’s own holding and reacting patterns.
For example, by pausing, stabilizing the attention on the breath and trying to remain calm despite the fluctuations of the mind, body, emotions and spirit clarity begins to emerge. We start to savor the value of slowing down and being present. Through clarity, thoughts become simpler and we learn to understand what we need in that moment. Breath by breath we begin to take healthy actions that enhance our well-being. Through clarity we start to see ourselves as we are, and unconditionally accept our truth. We realize that perfection is an illusion and we can kindly start to befriend our imperfections. We can compassionately see and accept our humanity and understand that we all have limitations. When we practice from a place of honesty, we recognize the edge and recognize that we are doing the best we can in that moment. This benevolent attitude allows us to gain wisdom, understanding, compassion and sensitivity, and it gives us the confidence to take healthy actions.
In the context of Yoga, the ability to calm down and remain peaceful while in a challenging pose allows us to recognize what works, and leave out what doesn’t. If the sensations are too intense, we back out and choose to practice in a sustainable way. We learn to apply kindness and respect towards our own limitations, and we learn to relax into being. Once we trust our benevolence and the intelligence of our body, judgment dissolves. We learn to recognize that our truth is valid and worth respecting. We understand that we are each in our own journey and we are all on a growing path. Growth is different for everyone and it’s a process that takes time. We discover that the closer we get to our nature the more we value our inner peace, integrity, respect, our capacity to love and be loved, to be present, to experience well-being, vitality, to be kind, to feel compassion for ourselves and inevitably for others.
In my experience the most important empowerment is that we can make choices that come from our essence. Choices that come from integrity, respect and benevolence. By stabilizing in our purpose of bringing good to us and others, we start to express unconditional respect, acceptance and love, to name a few qualities. As we grow in awareness we inevitably radiate that love, respect, acceptance and compassion towards others. This way, we start to embody traces of our divine nature. By slowing down and experiencing ourselves more clearly we discover that the value of our existence is not defined or determined by how far we go into a pose, or what we look like on the outside. Instead, we mature to recognize that the value of our existence is in our essence, in who we choose to be and which qualities we choose to embody and live by every day.
We understand that our choices have an impact on ourselves and others. To me, it’s possible to believe that at the core of our existence we may all have the capacity to care, to tune our attitude towards radiating healing and positive qualities. It’s a choice that we can all make if and when we pay attention to how good it feels to embody the truth of our essence.
In yoga, the asana or physical practice is a means to experience the body as a vehicle to facilitate this growth process. Our Yoga practice becomes a vehicle to grow in awareness, grow in understanding, train our mind, stabilize our emotions and recognize our divine essence. When we mature in our practice we understand that there’s value in embodying a challenging pose. However, we grow to understand that the real value is in resting in awareness, understanding and taking healthy actions that enhance our inner peace, not on the surface. The shape becomes the resource for us to see ourselves more clearly from the inside out. As we grow in understanding and depth, we no longer need to chase after a pose or try to get it “right.” We learn to observe how that grasping disrupts our focus and inner peace. Instead, we choose to fully express and embody our essence, which frees us from the expectations of the ego.
From now on, when we catch ourselves in that grasping and aggression we can pause, relax and choose not to succumb to it. We may discover that grasping and aggression are a reactive habit. A habit of grasping and aggression can be “deleted” as we recognize it brings no benefit, and it can be replaced by a more beneficial one. Through awareness, we recognize that which enhances our well-being and we commit to choosing more of that.
Slowing down can bring us significant value: to grow in awareness, have a clearer understanding of ourselves and others, what we need to do to optimize our well-being and that of others. Also, it can give us the empowerment to take healthy action when needed. As we grow in the path, we may bring significant benefits to our life and that of others. The path of going back to the qualities of our essence is a lifelong, day by day, breath by breath practice.